A Letter to North Korea’s Exiles

Fiona Bruce MP (Credit: Human Atlas)

What more is there to say about the Government of North Korea, a regime that wantonly starves, enslaves, impoverishes, and exterminates its population to maintain the legitimacy and rule of a system? To suffer for one’s family or for one’s cause is one matter. But to suffer for the Supreme Leader-centred system: that is another matter entirely.

As a serving Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom and a Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, I have witnessed Pyongyang’s march toward ever increasing capacities of evil. My journey has been marked by scores of exiled North Koreans who have visited London to tell of the horrors of starvation, poverty, imprisonment, and physical abuse and violence. I have heard of the state’s psychological weapons of war that have led to North Korean children being forcibly aborted and women and men being humiliated and compelled to give their minds to the Kim-family cult.

When I listen to exiled North Koreans, I always hear of a sense of betrayal. As exiles, you will have escaped the grip of the North Korean system, but you will have been forced to pay a heavy price for your freedoms. Many of you will have experienced brutalities that I will never comprehend. You will all have been separated from your families or have heard of suffering that befell family members. Those of you who now shed light on life inside North Korea or those of you who once worked for the North Korean government may now live under constant threat. And you will all have now realised a very stark fact: the system that raised you also betrayed you.

It may be of little consolation, but five-thousand miles from the Korean peninsula in London, your stories and your voices are heard. Through reports, oral testimonies, and exiled media outlets, such as New Focus, the awful realities of life inside North Korea — once dismissed as fantastical — are no longer hidden or denied.

To be frank, global recognition of the horrors that you once faced in North Korea took far too long to arrive. But today, the evidence against the North Korean government is so overwhelming that no amount of tourist attractions, paid for by the blood of twenty-five million citizens, or attempts at dissuasion by Pyongyang or its apologists can disguise the brutal reality of life under the Supreme Leader-centred system.

As exiles, you function as vital relays between hope and despair for your countrywomen and men who remain in North Korea. Every time you contact a remaining friend in North Korea, send money back to family members, or another compatriot flees, the foundations of the Kim dynasty erode ever more. The Kim dynasty is not simply based on the perpetuation of violence, it is also sustained by propaganda that justifies the cult of Kim. It is vital that we continue to break down this communications barrier.

It is my contention that the exiled North Korean community deserves more credit than it has received. For all of the good work of the United Nations and the international community, we must never forget that it has been the tireless work of exiles that has kept the candle burning for North Korea. The world has taken much from your community, and we must remember to repay your sacrifices. The All-Party Parliamentary Group has always welcomed, and will continue to welcome, you to London to tell your stories to the British public and politicians.

As I look forward, I see reasons for hope. Forces such as the blackmarket, foreign media, and the growing ability of ordinary North Koreans to make contact with the outside world are eroding Pyongyang’s ideological grip on its citizens. The exiled North Korean community that once stood in despair now rallies against those who abused, tortured, and killed their very own.

I have previously written of my hopes for the 30,000 exiled North Koreans who now live in the Republic of Korea. The National Assembly has passed the North Korean Human Rights Act and it is my hope that exiles will play a leading role in the Act’s implementation. Without the input and leadership of those who have experienced North Korea, we are all doomed to repeat the failures of the past.

Time waits for no man and change in North Korea cannot wait. I believe that North Koreans will soon be freed from their shackles and the exiled community will surely play a large role in this momentous task.

[The above op-ed was first published in Korean by New Focus on September 21st]

Fiona Bruce MP is Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, and a serving Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom.